Our takes from Day 2 of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, one that was highlighted by some high-profile beefs and lines drawn in the sand:
The ad is up, and it’s blocked!
Like a dominant center swatting shots away from the basket, ad-blockers are starting to affect everything mobile marketers are doing. On Tuesday, Roi Carthy, CMO of ad-blocking software Shine, got into a tiff with reps from Google and Yahoo! about the controversial but increasingly-popular practice. Carthy, proudly, called his company the “single biggest threat in the history of advertisers”, couching it in positivity by saying it will “reset the relationship with consumers.” Does the relationship need to be reset? Maybe. But, as Benjamin Faes of Google pointed out, it’s worth remembering that many publishers need ad revenue to keep offering content online for free. Perhaps if consumers had to start paying a monthly fee to see their favorite digital content, they’d reconsider. A nuclear option either way probably isn’t going to solve anything; there’s likely a middle ground, one that will require some shifting from both sides. But there is no question that mobile marketers should start exploring different models, if they haven’t already.
Are we secure?
Every year, at every digital/mobile/tech conference we hear a ton about how more connectivity means more data, and that will require better security. Let’s hope this comes to fruition, because if Avast Software’s MWC stunt tells us anything, it’s that consumers need to be protected from themselves. The company conducted a Wi-Fi hack experiment, setting up a bunch of bogus, public Wi-Fi networks. People connected to the unsafe networks at staggering numbers (Avast says it saw more than 8 million data packets from 2,000 users in just 4 hours). Avast was able to glean a whole bunch of information about those who logged into the networks—their devices, browsing history, apps they used, and more. Many people have their phones set to automatically connect to available Wi-Fi networks, so many likely didn’t even realize they were being “hacked”. Surely it’s a great sales tactic, but it probably should be a bit of a wake up call, too. Otherwise, MasterCard on Tuesday talked about their “selfie pay” facial recognition and, yes, heartbeat authentication security measures. While the former is much more advanced than the latter, there’s no question that it’s an interesting time for mobile security.
Tug of War
The battle between Apple and the United States government continues, and it’s to no one’s surprise that it’s a hot topic of conversation in Barcelona. Companies and influencers are taking sides: Though not at MWC, it’s notable that Bill Gates on Tuesday came out in support of unlocking the phone in question, saying it should be possible for the government to acquire the information it’s seeking in this specific case without creating a backdoor. Pavel Durov, founder of encrypted messaging app Telegram, stated on Tuesday his support for Apple. Neither of these endorsements are particularly surprising. Yesterday, however, Mark Zuckerberg said he supports Apple’s stance but also feels a responsibility as a communications network to help battle terrorism when it can. Like ad-blocking, there may be a solution to be found somewhere in the middle. But you can’t fault folks for being wary of slippery slopes.